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All Work and No Pay: Recognizing Women’s Unpaid Labor in the Global South

7:23 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

A Pokot woman with her child, tending to an aloe vera crop. Women around the world spend a great deal of time on unpaid care work every day, but such work often remains invisible. (Des Willie/ActionAid)

Originally posted at In These Times

Imagine being asked to work seven days a week, for free, without breaks or even a thank you. Those conditions might seem outrageous in any workplace, yet they are typical in our homes, where women are regularly expected to serve as faithful unpaid caregivers. Our recognition of the first scenario as a serious violation of labor rights, while the second can be brushed off as “tradition,” is a measure of the sexism still embedded in our thinking about economic equity in the U.S. and around the world.

While many of these debates have taken place in a Western context—the post-Feminine Mystique universe of fights over glass ceilings and parental leave policies—a different conversation is beginning in the Global South about how respect for women’s household labor factors into a wider movement for economic justice.

A new analysis by the advocacy group ActionAid looks at case studies of women’s uncompensated work in Nepal, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya as mothers, wives, managers of households and caregivers. The report concludes that women’s unpaid daily tasks amount to a massive amount of time, energy and ingenuity that has been historically exploited and undervalued.

The report defines unpaid care work as home-based tasks like “cooking, cleaning, collecting water and firewood, and caring for the ill, elderly and children,” which are typically woven into interdependent relationships within communities and family structures. Not only is such work essential to maintaining the household; it is deeply interwoven with social development. Stability at home provides a base of security that enables other forms of economic advancement. Care work is of course crucial for children’s development (as well as their future education), but it also enables male family members to engage in wage labor in the mainstream economy. Read the rest of this entry →

Migrant Workers Can’t Win In Xenophobic Greece

9:15 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Mitsos (Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

Originally posted at In These Times

Across Europe, the economic crisis is driving communities to deep desperation, and the people who were always at the margins are getting pushed straight off the edge.

Under misguided austerity policies, unemployment has reached devastating levels in the euro zone–reaching 12 percent across the region and topping 50 percent for youth in Spain and Greece. But some communities are sinking faster than others. Struggling migrant communities–both economic immigrants and refugees–are more neglected by the state’s social infrastructure than ever, while their native-born neighbors turn against them in a rash of xenophobic scapegoating.

Greece, which has long been a hub of immigration from Asia, Middle East and Africa, has become a cesspool of bigotry. According to a December report by Amnesty International, “Asylum-seekers, migrants, community centres, shops and mosques have been the target of such attacks which have been reported on an almost daily basis since the summer.”

Last September, an attack on a Pakistani-run barber shop showed how racism intersects with inhumane immigration policies:

The two men verbally attacked the Greek customer who was present for having a haircut in a shop owned by Pakistanis and stabbed him when he reacted. Then they started destroying the shop and throwing Molotov cocktails. The police came to investigate the incident and arrested two Pakistani nationals because they had no documents. In October, they were both in detention, pending deportation. Read the rest of this entry →

In All-India General Strike, Workers Go All Out Against Neoliberalism

2:58 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

(Photo: World Federation of Trade Unions, http://www.wftucentral.org)

Cross-posted from In These Times

India’s economic ascent seems like it should be the envy of the world’s richest nations; with rocketing growth rates and gargantuan consumer and labor markets, India’s destiny as Asia’s next superstar looks beyond a doubt. Except Indian workers just gave the boosters of global capitalism a few million second thoughts.

The all-India general strike of February 28 brought together workers of various sectors and political stripes, civil servants along with rickshaw drivers, united under a banner of opposition to neoliberal policies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government. The labor movement of the world’s largest democracy issued a stark challenge to the idea of deregulation as an economic cure.

AFP quoted All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta: “We are fighting for our rights against a government that is anti-people.”

The core grievances center around government corruption, rising costs of living, labor violations, privatization, and the general rush to hand the economy over to the talons of free enterprise and shred the welfare state.

Public Services International, a global union that works with public employees in India, articulated a broad agenda of social and economic protection:

The common demands are (a) gaining the same rights and protection for temporary and contract workers as that of permanent workers, (b) raising and extending the minimum wage, (c) resisting the attacks on trade unions, (d) stopping price rise, (e) the creation of a national social security fund, (f) increase in pensions, (g) combating corruption.

In addition, public sector advocates oppose the “downsizing, outsourcing, contractualisation, corporatisation and privatisation of government function.” They demand protection for the right to strike, regulation of the use of “casual” labor, and measures to “Keep the public utilities in public hand.”

Other rallying points of the strike include pressing the government to ratify key international labor accords and to provide social security for all workers, including the irregular laborers often subjected to exploitation, discrimination and outright slavery. Read the rest of this entry →